The Whispering Statue
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Original edition cover
|Cover artist||Russell H. Tandy|
|Series||Nancy Drew Mystery Stories|
|Publisher||Grosset & Dunlap|
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|LC Class||PZ7.K23 Nan no. 14 1970|
|Preceded by||The Mystery of the Ivory Charm|
|Followed by||The Haunted Bridge|
The Whispering Statue is the fourteenth volume in the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories series. It was originally published by Grosset & Dunlap in 1937. An updated, revised, and largely different story was published under the same title in 1970.
Plot summary - 1937 edition
Nancy, Bess, and George encounter a troublesome stray terrier on their way to the opening festivities of a new park and recreation complex in River Heights. The terrier carries the handbag of one of the guest speakers into a nearby pond. Nancy retrieves the handbag, and uses the terrier to prompt the speaker during her address. Nancy learns that the woman seeks her estranged husband. Nancy keeps the terrier temporarily, and takes it with her when she, her father, and friends go on a retreat to the seashore. On the train, the girls observe elderly Bernice Conger, and suspect a youthful companion of trying to swindle the woman.
Once there, the girls find a statue that bears an uncanny resemblance to Nancy, in a whispering pose. Further mysterious actions occur when Mrs. Conger acknowledges that she is being swindled, and dismisses Nancy. A seaplane accident leads Nancy to the estranged husband she has been seeking. In the climax of the story, Nancy hides behind the statue and uses her voice to make the statue appear to speak to both Mrs. Conger and the crook.
Nancy is asked to solve a puzzling mystery, whereupon she encounters a second case. The first mystery concerns a valuable collection of rare books. Wealthy Mrs. Horace Merriam has commissioned a supposedly reputable art dealer to sell the collection, but she now suspects that the man is a swindler who is not giving Mrs. Merriam her portion of the proceeds. The second mystery involves the baffling theft of a beautiful marble statue, which is thought to "whisper," and which bears an uncanny resemblance to Nancy. She becomes an undercover employee of the dealer, with the alias Debbie Lynbrook. The mystery becomes complicated when the returned marble statue is discovered to be fake. An attempted kidnapping, a nearly disastrous sailboat collision, and an encounter with a dishonest sculptor are just a few of the exciting challenges that Nancy is faced with as she gathers evidence against a clever ring of art thieves.
The original 1937 cover art is by Russell H. Tandy, and shows Nancy crouched behind a statue, speaking to a man. Rudy Nappi illustrated the same scene for the 1962 picture cover edition, with updated clothing and hairstyles. Nappi also illustrated the cover of the 1970 edition, which is predominantly blue and white, featuring Nancy's profile behind an overlay of a statue.
Adult collectors of juvenile series often discuss artwork and plot elements in various fanzines and list serves. The original story introduces the recurring character of Nancy's dog Togo, who begins as a bull terrier (a popular breed in 1937) but is mentioned as a fox terrier or illustrated as a Scottish terrier in later appearances. The whispering element in the original version is simply Nancy fooling individuals; in a climactic moment, Nancy and Mrs. Conger are swept out to sea inside of a floating house, a somewhat strange and criticized element. In the revision, Nancy and her friends "hide" by kneeling inside three empty picture frames, a somewhat laughable idea. The statue whispers because of special holes drilled in the original that the wind could pass through when positioned in a garden. The artwork on the 1970 cover and interior text illustrations make the statue's resemblance to Nancy undeniable: they both wear their hair in a bobbed flip. Since the statue is a likeness of a long-dead woman, it is anachronistic that the statue sports a hairstyle not popularized until 1960 or later, a point of discussion among critics.